Mr. Speaker, I am very pleased to rise in support of Bill C-305. I want to again take the opportunity to acknowledge my friend from Nepean for his hard work and his leadership in moving this legislation.
Bill C-305 seeks to amend section 430(4.1) of the Criminal Code, which relates to mischief against religious property. Section 430(4.1) of the Criminal Code makes it an offence for an individual to commit an act of mischief motivated by hate targeted at a place of worship such as a church, mosque, synagogue, or temple.
In addition to section 430(4.1), there is also a section of the Criminal Code that deals with mischief targeted toward general property. The reason section 430(4.1) was added to the Criminal Code to deal specifically with acts of mischief motivated by hate targeted at religious property was in recognition of the fact that such acts of mischief were different than acts of mischief to general property.
Take, for example, someone who sprays graffiti on the back wall of a restaurant. In such a case, the victim is the owner of the restaurant. Take the example of someone who sprays hateful graffiti on the back wall of a mosque or synagogue. That is an act that targets an entire community. It affects an entire community and it victimizes an entire community.
Bill C-305 would amend section 430(4.1) of the Criminal Code by expanding the categories of properties to not only include places of worship, but to include the likes of schools, community centres, and seniors residences. The expansion of these categories recognizes that mischief motivated by hate and targeted to people of a religious faith or a religious group often do not just take place at places of worship, but take place at religious schools, or religious community centres or religious seniors facilities. We have seen many examples of hate crimes that have been perpetrated against schools and community centres.
We saw a few years back the horrific fire bombing of the United Talmud Torah School in Montreal. More recent in Ottawa a string of mischief incidents were motivated by hate, which targeted a mosque and two synagogues, but also targeted a Jewish learning centre as well as the Ottawa Muslim Association.
Bill C-305 is good legislation. Its objective is laudable. It was why I was proud to speak in strong support of the bill at second reading. It is why I am proud to speak in strong support of Bill C-305 at this stage of the legislative process.
Bill C-305, upon passing the House at second reading, was referred to the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights, of which I am a member. As a member of that committee, I had an opportunity to study the bill in some detail.
Upon studying the bill, listening to the witnesses, and reviewing the evidence that was presented to the committee, I, along with the majority of the members of the justice committee, believed that in some respects Bill C-305, as originally drafted, was overly broad, inasmuch as it would apply not only to religious schools, religious community centres, and religious seniors residences but to all schools, all community centres, and all seniors residences. In my view, that would not be consistent with the purpose of section 430(4.1) of the Criminal Code, which was added to the Criminal Code in recognition of the fact that mischief motivated by hate targeted at religious property was a crime that was different, that was unique from mischief that targeted general property.
At the same time as finding that perhaps it was overly broad in some respects, I, along with the majority of the members of the justice committee, could not really see any logic as to why the section applied in cases of mischief targeted toward religious property but did not encompass similar acts of hate targeted at property associated with other identifiable groups. After all, when one commits mischief motivated by hate on a religious community centre, an ethnic community centre, or an LGBTQ youth centre, such acts of mischief are acts that target entire communities, affect entire communities, and victimize entire communities.
On that basis, the justice committee brought forward a few amendments to Bill C-305. As a result, Bill C-305, as amended, is, in some respects, narrowed inasmuch as it no longer applies to any school, senior centre, or community centre. However, at the same time, section 430(4.1) is expanded to encompass not just acts of mischief targeted at religious property but mischief targeted at property associated with any identifiable group, “identifiable group” being already defined in the Criminal Code.
I believe Bill C-305 would help send a strong message that hate crimes against any identifiable group would not be tolerated and that the perpetrators of such egregious crimes would be held accountable to the fullest extent of the law.